The No-Diet Resolution to a Healthier You in the New Year |

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By Super Bowl Sunday, with nachos dripping from our lips, the majority of us who resolved to diet to lose weight in the New Year abandon that resolution and never get back on track. Yet, with the vision of a “new year, new you,” we keep setting—and failing at—that same ole diet resolution. Why do we do this? More importantly, what can we do instead to be healthy and feel our best at every weight, shape, and size?

Why Diet Resolution Fails

One reason the diet resolution fails for so many people has to do with the perceived power of that one day:  New Year’s Day holds the promise that a better, healthier version of yourself is within easy reach by simply going on a diet. That’s a pretty powerful perception and it overlooks something big:

Perceiving something as possible requires planned action to make it possible.

The crux of the matter is that most of us don’t plan, or don’t plan well enough, for how to change their eating habits because they don’t quite understand all the influences on their eating habits.

“Diets—eating regimens that require cutting portions, restricting calories, or eliminating food groups—do not address the intersection of what we eat and the reasons why we eat. This Moods, emotions, social cues, past experience, flavor preferences, and triggers all influence eating behavior,” explains Kristin Kwak, MS RD, LDN, CEDS. Kristin is a registered dietician and certified nutrition therapist in private practice outside of Philadelphia, PA. Kristin helps people heal from diet chaos, empowering them to release controlling, disordered thoughts and behaviors about food, body, and movement.

“In an ideal world, we’d eat only when we are hungry and stop as soon as we feel full. And there would be no obesity crisis or market for diet products. But that’s simply not what happens.”

For 80% of people, dieting does not result in lasting weight loss. Put another way, only 1 in 5 people, or 20%, successfully maintain weight loss). In fact, dieting increases the likelihood of future weight gain, damage to psychological health, and pervasive body dissatisfaction.

“All a diet gives a person,” says Kristin, “are rules for what to eat/not to eat, how much and how little to put on the plate. People stop a diet because they feel deprived and resentful; once they break a rule they feel frustrated and even angry. Diets dis-empower people to make meaningful change.”

And that ties into another reason diets fail is most people aren’t familiar with eating as an evolutionary, survival behavior that humans developed over thousands of years and each of us, in our own lifetime, has created our own ingrained habits and patterns, thoughts and emotions around food. Some of these are healthy, others less so, and some are detrimental.

Changing eating habits is a process that takes time and requires a dash of self-knowledge peppered with ample planning and support.

“The best approach to sustained healthy eating begins with self-acceptance for where you are now, no matter your size, shape, or number on the scale. From here, follow a non-diet approach that is intuitive and mindful, and realistic for you,” says Kristin.

“Instead of focusing on rigid rules, calorie counting, rationalizing, or compensating, take the time to learn about your needs for nourishment. A nourishment diary can you identify and respond to your physical, emotional, and social cues around food, hunger, and appetite.”

Non-Diet Tips to Help Change Eating Habits for a Healthier You

Changing your eating habits requires planning for what will work best for you, physically and emotionally. It is necessary to give yourself time to establish and sustain new eating habits so you can make your way to a healthier you in 2024.

Be Intentional.  Take a deep dive into why you want to eat healthier/lose weight. Don’t stop at “I want my clothes to fit better.” Keep asking yourself the “why question” until you’ve peeled away so many layers, there’s only one reason left. That is the heart of your motivation to stick with your goal—and keep that reason in front of you every day.

Be Mindful.  In every way possible be mindful about this promise you are making to yourself to nourish yourself in healthier ways. Use an app or a journal to make observations about your hunger cues, social settings, foods preferences. Pay attention to what your thoughts are when you eat. Mindful eating helps you slow down so you can choose/prepare food and eat with greater awareness and joy for the foods you are choosing.

Be SMART.  SMART goals really do work when they are:
Specific, Small, Attainable, Realistic and Time-defined.

Remember, you’re not just setting one big goal focused on an end result. You want to have small daily and weekly goals. SMART Goals for changing eating habits could look like these:

  • Eat a serving of fruit with 3 meals 5 days per week
  • Eat a serving of a vegetable at 2 snacks and 2 meals each day
  • Replace one diet soda with flavored seltzer water at every lunch
  • Limit alcohol to 1 glass with dinner 3 days a week
  • Walk for 30 min each day at a specific time

Being SMART with your goals means adopting one new habit at a time, not everything all at once. And, don’t set all or nothing goals. If you miss the mark at one meal…you have at least two more meals that day to give yourself healthy nourishment.

Find Your Tribe.  Whether you opt for a health coach, nutrition therapist, a friend/family member or an online support system—get one. Join a walking group. Take a cooking class. Support for your goal is out there—ask for it because you deserve it! Accountability and positive partnership help you to sustain change.

Move Joyfully.  Shift your mindset around exercise from “working-out” and “getting fit” to simply enjoying movement…walking, dancing, site-seeing by bike or foot, gardening, aqua-yoga—try something new, do something you’ve always loved doing but stopped, but do move your body in ways that bring you joy while elevating your heart rate.

Cultivate Optimism.  Keep positive thoughts churning. When making a change, this is a time to be kind to yourself, to give yourself grace, and to recognize that every day, how you nourish yourself is a choice. That’s empowering.

While you’re focused on a healthier version of you for 2024, remember that nourishing yourself is not just about food…it’s about self-care so drink plenty of water, get good quality sleep, and we’ll say it again—be kind to yourself.


Stewart, T. M., Martin, C. K., & Williamson, D. A. (2022). The Complicated Relationship between Dieting, Dietary Restraint, Caloric Restriction, and Eating Disorders: Is a Shift in Public Health Messaging Warranted?. International journal of environmental research and public health19(1), 491.

Bacon, L., Aphramor, L. Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift. Nutr J 10, 9 (2011).

Beckman, S. Cooper Institute. “Tips to Support Healthy Behavior Change.”  “Changing Your Habits for Better Health.”

Tylka, T., et al. (2014.) The weight-inclusive versus weight-normative approach to health: Evaluating the evidence for prioritizing well-being over weight loss. Journal of Obesity.

Young, S.  “Healthy Behavior Change in Practical Settings.” Perm J (2014, Fall) 18:4: 89-92.


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